But in the face of the most blatant display of class warfare and union busting in my lifetime, what response do I see? A few letters to the editor in a Detroit newspaper… a few blogs on the Internet… media commentators expressing mild concern over the collapse of the latest Congressional plan to save the domestic auto manufacturing industry. (And now, back to that juicy Blagojevich scandal. Let’s see if President-elect Obama can somehow be “tainted” with it.)
There are no protest marches, peaceful or otherwise. No rousing call to arms from UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. What kind of union leader is he, anyway? His defense of America’s auto workers has been remarkably flaccid.
Let me be clear about this: I don’t blame Gettelfinger for the rescue plan’s collapse. I blame the Republican senators who made completely unreasonable demands. In effect, they asked Congress to sacrifice the American auto worker on the altar of global commerce. They knew this would be unacceptable to Democrats. They want the domestic auto industry to die because the states they represent are home to foreign owned vehicle assembly plants. The Republican rebels claim their opposition is based on the principle that business should live or die without government interference. But their professed opposition to government intervention rings hollow when you consider that since 1992, their states have spent more than $3 billion dollars to attract foreign-owned auto assembly plants. In Alabama alone, the Hyundai Motor Company got $252 million, Toyota got $29 million, Honda, $158 million and Mercedes $253 million. And on top of this, the state gave Mercedes a large parcel of land valued at about $300 million. How’s that for free-market capitalism? Besides, where was their “principle” when they voted to give the failing finance industry hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars?
In addition, the foreign owners of the (non-union) assembly plants attracted by southern U.S. states are subsidized by their own governments. Do not suppose for a moment that Japan, Germany or (South) Korea would be so feckless as to let their heavy industry collapse. Their leaders have enough sense to realize heavy industry is essential to a sustainable economy.
Where are our leaders? If President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson do not intervene to save America’s auto industry, what does Barack Obama plan to do? Why doesn’t he sound more outraged by this sell-out to global interests? Who will protect America if he does not?
Top photo shows a protest march on Washington DC back in 2004. Lower photo shows (from left) Richard Wagoner Jr., chairman and CEO of General Motors, Robert Nardelli, CEO of Chrysler, Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford, and Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers, testifying on Capitol Hill recently.